{{ timeAgo('2023-01-25 14:50:00 -0600') }} baseball Edit

Brady Slavens back to full health for Diamond Hogs

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Arkansas slugger Brady Slavens is back in Fayetteville for his final season of eligibility, and he is primed to showcase his talent at full health once again.

Following his 2022 campaign, Slavens had surgery to repair ulnar nerve instability in his elbow. The injury limited his ability to play defense and also likely had an affect on him going undrafted in the 2022 MLB Draft.

Slavens saw action in right field and at first base last year, but he spent most of his time as the team's designated hitter. He slashed .255/.332/.523, tied for a team-high 16 homers and added 58 RBIs.

Those numbers look good, but Slavens struggled at times last year. He posted a team-high 66 strikeouts and his on-base percentage was the worst of the regular nine starters. Head coach Dave Van Horn said prior to the fall season that Slavens put a lot of pressure on himself last year.

"We talked about playing the game and loving the game and playing with a smile on your face, and that’s what we want out of Brady," Van Horn said on Sept. 7. "If we get that from Brady, I think he’s going to have a great year. I think Brady put a ton of pressure on himself last year, and we don’t want him to feel that pressure. We don’t want him to play like that. We want him to play because he loves to play baseball."

After going undrafted, Slavens had a decision to make about his future. He drove to Fayetteville to meet with Van Horn and hitting coach Nate Thompson, and the conclusion seemed to be that Arkansas wanted him, and really needed him back.

Slavens is one of two starters from last year's lineup to be back, joining Peyton Stovall. He is just two years removed from leading Arkansas' starters in batting average (.284), slugging percentage (.560) and RBIs (63) during the 2021 season.

With two years of SEC baseball under his belt and a healed up elbow, Slavens is looking good entering the start of practice later in the week.

"We’re excited about having Brady back," Van Horn said Friday. "I think he’s just got a different mindset. I think he’s in really good shape. Arm’s fine. He’s throwing 100%. Probably better than he ever has honestly. He’s fielded the ball real well so far in our drills."

Van Horn also confirmed that Slavens will be Arkansas' first baseman for the upcoming season.

During Arkansas' College World Series run last summer, Slavens showed off his power on the big stage with a 436 foot homer to dead center. The hit was longer than any other home run at the College World Series since the event moved to Charles Schwab Field/TD Ameritrade Park in 2011.

It seems as if Slavens hasn't missed a beat, he's just not in Omaha anymore.

"We’ve done some live at-bats off of pitching," Van Horn said. "He hit one yesterday — it was inside and it’s all on TrackMan, but he hit an opposite field ball about 400-something feet, which was good to see. It’s not all about home runs obviously. For him to come out on really his first few live at-bats in a while, he looked real comfortable."

Not only is Slavens looking to have a strong final year in Fayetteville, but he is taking on a leadership role within the team. Though he wasn't voted as one of the three team captains, he is doing his part to prepare the guys.

"Me and Brady were trying to think of ways, like how can we get our teammates ready to face SEC competition and not get so sped up in the moment the first couple of weekends so we can get off to a hot start," outfielder Jace Bohrofen said. "It's definitely going to be a challenge. With all the good teams around the conference, it's going to be very fun competing against them."

The Diamond Hogs will ramp up practice Friday ahead of the start of their season next month at the College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas' first game will be against the Texas Longhorns at 7 p.m. CT on Friday, Feb. 17.

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